Middleton by Wirksworth
Middleton sits a mile to the north of Wirksworth, with parts of it being more than 1000 feet above sea level. The village is defined by its industrial heritage, with lead mining and limestone quarrying shaping the buildings and landscape in and around it.
The main street has been described as having 'something of the character of a Cornish village, with stone cottages sticking themselves out into the roadway as you climb its steep main street.' Side streets and alleys follow suit, with charm and variety in the higgledy-piggledy placement of properties that cling to the hillside. Head up the steep Water Lane to Middleton Moor and you'll be rewarded with an impressive panorama which includes Riber Castle, Crich Stand, Bolehill, Alport Height and several edges to the north. DH Lawrence lived on the village outskirts during 1918-19 and noted that 'from the height it is very beautiful' on his walks to the 'bare top of the hills'.
Middleton is first mentioned in the Domesday Book as Middeltune. Founded in Saxon times, the name means Middle Farm and by 1297 it had received the suffix 'juxta Wyrkesworth' (by Wirksworth). The medieval village core combined with the developments throughout its mining and quarrying years have resulted in the village being designated a conservation area.
These days it's home to nearly 1000 villagers. It boasts two pubs, located at either end of Main Street. Some 10 minutes' walk from Eight The Green at the lower end of the village, you'll find The Rising Sun. Open daily, the pub offers home-cooked lunches and dinners, along with weekly quizzes, live music and other events.
Across The Green from the cottage sits The Nelson Arms, a free house that serves a variety of real ales and acts as the village social hub. Many local groups meet here, and it also doubles as a Post Office on several days of the week. Although they don't offer cooked food, there are a couple of food vans that set up in the free public car park next to the pub, including Bella Mia Wood-Fired Pizza every second Friday. Tuesday mornings see Refills On The Road visit Middleton; they're Derbyshire’s first mobile zero-waste shop selling food, toiletries, and household goods, but don't forget to bring your own containers!
During your stay it's always worth keeping an eye on the Village Pump newsletter, the village notice board (in the bus shelter on The Green) and the Middleton events Facebook page, but two regular activities are films at the village hall and a monthly Sunday group walk. There are also running and cycling groups who you can join for an evening outing.
Middleton's lead mining industry can be traced back to the Bronze Age, but quarrying became the village's main industry. Extraction of the area's high-quality limestone began in Roman times, but was only carried out intensively from the end of the 19th century; you can learn about this and more at the nearby National Stone Centre, whose 40-acre SSSI site offers free activities for all. Open year-round, there are outdoor fossil trails, a visitor centre with shop, cafe and exhibition, geo walks, and picnic and play areas. If you wish to further your love of all things stone, then they also run dry walling and stone carving courses.
The adjacent Derbyshire Eco Centre is the county hub for sustainability learning. At the heart of the country's drive to combat climate change, it offers courses to help learn the skills needed to enjoy living sustainably and lead lower carbon lifestyles, and is the first centre of its kind in the country.
Middleton is dominated by its rugged landscape setting, perched at the foot of Middleton Moor high above Wirksworth. The moor rises to 358 metres and lies on the south-eastern margin of a limestone plateau which characterises a large part of the upland landscape of Derbyshire, often known as the White Peak. Superb walking can be had in all directions from Eight The Green, with routes for all abilities making it easy to explore the Derbyshire Dales.
The former Cromford and High Peak Railway passes close by the village. The line took 5 years to construct, opening in 1830, and was mainly used to transport heavy minerals from the Cromford Canal to the Peak Forest Canal. The disused railway is now the High Peak Trail and is extremely popular with cyclists, walkers and horse riders. It is 17 miles long and runs from High Peak Junction, Cromford to Dow Low which is 4 miles south-east of Buxton.
Fifteen minutes' walk across the moor from Eight The Green lies Middleton Top Countryside Centre, which has a visitor centre, gift/refreshments shop, cycle hire, toilets, picnic area and car park. It also features a restored octagonal steam engine house which used to draw trains up the steep Middleton Incline until the line closed in 1963.
Middleton's village quarries were linked to the High Peak Railway line by a short branch spur, part of which now forms the track bed of the Steeple Grange Light Railway. This is a volunteer-operated 18-inch gauge line, with motive power provided by ex-industrial diesel, petrol, and battery-electric locomotives. Passengers are carried in old manriders once used to convey miners below ground, and you can enjoy a unique 25-minute round-trip train ride which passes through dramatic limestone cuttings. Trains run Sundays and bank holidays, but do check before visiting.